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Medical cannabis commission rejects transfer of dispensary license

Sales in Md. grew sharply amid COVID-19 pandemic

Will Tilburg, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, says the commission has not completed its investigations of applicants or made the names of applicants public. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Will Tilburg, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

A request to transfer interest in a Baltimore medical cannabis dispensary was denied after a background check found the prospective new owner had a criminal record.

Brian Ruden applied in May to transfer a 16% equity ownership in Hallaway LLC, which does business under the name Star Buds in the 5900 block of Belair Road, to Naser Joudeh. State law requires a review of tax returns and a criminal background check including fingerprinting for such transfers.

“The conviction in this case was for a fraud-related offense,” said Will Tilburg, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. “Moral turpitude, which is a commonly used term across the Maryland Code for qualifications disqualifying individuals from certain licensures, has been applied consistently to include crimes of fraud.”

Ruden, an attorney who helped found Star Buds in Colorado, recently led a sale of the chain’s 13 stores and a cultivation site in that state to Schwazze, a publicly traded cannabis company for a reported $118 million, according to THCNet.

Maryland law allows for the commission to reject an application for such a transfer because of conviction or plea of no contest related to a crime of moral turpitude.

“The individual in question had a fraud conviction in their criminal history,” said Tilburg.

The commission, which met virtually, voted unanimously to deny the transfer to Joudeh.

Joudeh’s criminal history could not be found in online court records in Maryland.

Tilburg did not immediately respond to questions about Joudeh’s criminal history including a date of conviction or information regarding where the conviction was recorded.

Updated COVID-19 guidance coming for dispensaries

Operators of medical cannabis dispensaries can expect updated guidelines related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic before the end of the month.

Under previous orders, dispensaries had been considered health care facilities, and were subject to required mask use and other limitations.

“That will be terminated as of (July 1) in accordance with the updated orders,” said Tilburg, referencing changes announced earlier this month by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Hogan announced two weeks ago that he was ending the pandemic-related state of emergency. That decision effectively ends all mask mandates on a statewide effective July 1, though some local governments may have the authority to continue them on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis.

Tilburg said updated guidance related to mask use, social distancing and use of telehealth appointments was forthcoming.

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